I wish I had not let this question go so long. I have been concerned about it since the day in 2009 when I heard that Elections Canada is promoting electronic voting (e-voting). What flashed in my mind was the election fraud in Florida through which George Bush became president of the U.S..
All of us are aware of the insecurity of computer systems.
Not everyone knows the story of Diebold Election Systems which morphed into Global Election Systems and is now called Premier Election Solutions. (Why do corporations change their names? . . to avoid linkage to bad deeds.)
Not everyone has seen the documentary, “Murder, Spies & Voting Lies“. (available on Netflix.)
Today I sent an email to Canada’s Chief Electoral Officer, Marc Mayrand. I want to know the status of the electronic voting project in Canada. I am hoping that the time, money and ego invested in e-voting in Canada will not cause deafness.
- THE EXPERIENCE WITH E-VOTING FRAUD IN FLORIDA, “Murder, Spies & Voting Lies“. (See also: 2003-10-24 Diebold Memos Disclose Florida 2000 E-Voting Fraud)
- JANUARY 2010, WORKSHOP “INTERNET VOTING – WHAT CAN CANADA LEARN?”, CONDUCTED BY THE “STRATEGIC KNOWLEDGE CLUSTER, CANADA – EUROPE TRANSATLANTIC DIALOGUE” (ELECTIONS CANADA WEB-SITE)
- CHANGES TO EXISTING LEGISLATION WOULD NEED TO BE “SWEEPING AND WIDESPREAD”
- ELECTRONIC VOTING IN CANADA, GOOD INFORMATION ON WIKIPEDIA
- “THE PROBLEM IS WITH THE COMPUTER, NOT WITH THE FACT THAT THE COMPUTER IS BEING USED IN A VOTING SYSTEM”
- (BACKGROUND) JUNE 2009, ELECTIONS CANADA BACKS ONLINE VOTING
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(1) THE EXPERIENCE WITH E-VOTING FRAUD IN FLORIDA, “Murder, Spies & Voting Lies“.
(See also: 2003-10-24 Diebold Memos Disclose Florida 2000 E-Voting Fraud)
Useful background for assessing the arguments related to the security of electronic voting.
For me, the experience with e-voting in the U.S. soundly reinforces the arguments against e-voting, as does the assessment by Christopher Parsons, Online Voting and Hostile Deployment Environments.
The documentary “Murder, Spies & Voting Lies” chronicling Clint Curtis’s story (about e-voting fraud) was released in 2008 and won a number of awards, including best documentary at the New Jersey Film Festival.
At http://www.votinglies.com/ you’ll find the “trailer” for the documentary. It is good; I haven’t seen the film. There is lots of information to be had by googling “Clinton Eugene Curtis“.
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(2) JANUARY 2010, WORKSHOP “INTERNET VOTING – WHAT CAN CANADA LEARN?”, CONDUCTED BY THE “STRATEGIC KNOWLEDGE CLUSTER, CANADA – EUROPE TRANSATLANTIC DIALOGUE” (ELECTIONS CANADA WEB-SITE)
There may have been reasonably balanced discussion. The businesses that might benefit understandably make solid pitches for e-voting. I noticed a statement that electronic voting systems are more expensive than what we have been using.
I wasn’t there: the summary does not tell whether there was rigorous discussion of ways in which electronic voting opens the way to fraud in election results. It seems to me that the agenda would have benefitted by the real-world experience of “Murder, Spies & Voting Lies“?
It is almost impossible to guard against fraud in an electronic system. As Bruce Schneier points out in item #5, the problem is the COMPUTER. The problem is NOT that the computer is to be used in the voting system.
Open source development of the software is offered as a remedy against what Clint Curtis describes in item #1 (money buys corruption of the software to rig the vote count). The argument by Chris Parsons, Online Voting and Hostile Deployment Environments, says “No”, open source software is not a remedy.
The Strategic Knowledge Cluster Canada–Europe Transatlantic Dialogue (CETD) at Carleton University, organized a workshop entitled, Internet Voting: What Can Canada Learn? in Ottawa on January 26, 2010.
In support of its commitment set out in the Strategic Plan 2008–2013 to increase the accessibility of the electoral process, Elections Canada collaborated with CETD to organize this workshop and to prepare a research paper.
These two initiatives explored considerations and lessons learned for Canada by examining Internet voting trials that have taken place at the municipal level in Canada (i.e. Markham, Peterborough and Halifax) and in European jurisdictions (i.e. Estonia, Geneva and the United Kingdom).
The workshop further examined these trials by bringing together technical experts, electoral practitioners from jurisdictions that have used Internet voting, and prominent scholars who have studied applicable models.
- A Comparative Assessment of Electronic Voting
- Workshop program
- Internet Voting Workshop Summary of Proceedings
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(3) CHANGES TO EXISTING LEGISLATION WOULD NEED TO BE “SWEEPING AND WIDESPREAD”
Technology and the Voting Process
Appendix B: Voting Technologies and the Canada Elections Act
In the following table, we identify those sections of the Canada Elections Act which are impacted by the electronic voting options (telephone, Internet and kiosk).
On reflection, and after consultation with Elections Canada officials, we have concluded that amendments to the Act as listed would only serve to complicate an already difficult and complicated piece of legislation. In fact, the Act is so intrinsically linked to the current process that changes would need to be sweeping and widespread. The better course, if Parliament were considering amendments to allow for the possibility of electronic voting, would be to write a new schedule of the Act to permit for electronic voting, and under terms and conditions, Parliament deemed appropriate as is the case for special voting rules. . . . etc.
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(4) ELECTRONIC VOTING IN CANADA, GOOD INFORMATION ON WIKIPEDIA
(I wonder whether the civic authorities that contract these corporations ever do a background check? Diebold is corrupt.)
In an effort to address accessibility issues Kingston, Ontario offered touch-screen voting machines for advance voting in 2006 supplied by Diebold Election Systems, now Premiere Election Solutions.
A 2000 year-end report from Global Election Systems (formerly called Diebold Election Systems and now called Premier Election Solutions) states “Global reports add-on sales of 60 AccuVote systems to the City of Ottawa and 70 to the City of Hamilton as well as first-time sales of 60 AccuVote-TS systems to the City of Barrie“.
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(5) “THE PROBLEM IS WITH THE COMPUTER, NOT WITH THE FACT THAT THE COMPUTER IS BEING USED IN A VOTING SYSTEM”
It has been demonstrated that as voting systems become more complex and include software, different methods of election fraud become possible. Others also challenge the use of electronic voting from a theoretical point of view, arguing that humans are not equipped for verifying operations occurring within an electronic machine and that because people cannot verify these operations, the operations cannot be trusted. Furthermore, some computing experts have argued for the broader notion that people cannot trust any programming they did not author.
Under a secret ballot system, there is no known input, nor any expected output with which to compare electoral results. Hence, electronic electoral results and thus the accuracy, honesty and security of the entire electronic system cannot be verified by humans.
Critics of electronic voting, including security analyst Bruce Schneier, note that “computer security experts are unanimous on what to do (some voting experts disagree, but it is the computer security experts who need to be listened to; the problems here are with the computer, not with the fact that the computer is being used in a voting application)…DRE machines must have a voter-verifiable paper audit trails… Software used on DRE machines must be open to public scrutiny” to ensure the accuracy of the voting system. Verifiable ballots are necessary because computers can and do malfunction, and because voting machines can be compromised.
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(6) (BACKGROUND) JUNE 26 2009, ELECTIONS CANADA BACKS ONLINE VOTING
Joan Bryden THE CANADIAN PRESS
OTTAWA–Allowing Canadians to vote electronically may be the remedy for the ever-dwindling percentage of voters who bother to exercise their democratic rights, Elections Canada suggests.
In a report released late Friday, the independent electoral watchdog says it will push this fall for legislative changes that would allow it to implement online registration of voters.
And it wants parliamentary approval to conduct an electronic voting test-run in a byelection by 2013.
The report notes that only 58.8 per cent of registered voters actually cast ballots during last October’s federal election – the worst-ever voter turnout in Canadian history.
“It would appear that voting competes with other daily priorities for a substantial number of electors,” says the report, summarizing the results of surveys, focus groups and other evaluations commissioned by Elections Canada in the wake of the Oct. 14 vote.
“In that sense, Elections Canada’s efforts to make registration and voting more accessible and convenient for electors (e.g., through initiatives such as e-registration and an eventual e-voting pilot) appear to be well positioned.
“By working at ‘bringing the ballot to the elector,’ we may contribute to mitigating some of the reasons for lower turnout.”
A survey conducted for the agency found that 57 per cent of those who didn’t vote in the last election blamed “everyday situations” – such as being on holiday, being too busy, family obligations or work schedules – for their failure to cast ballots.
Thirty-six per cent cited negative attitudes toward politics or political parties, including 14 per cent who said they were too apathetic and eight per cent who said they were too cynical to bother voting.
The survey also found considerable public interest in making it easier to vote. Fifty-eight per cent of electors said they’d be likely to use the Internet to register and 54 per cent said they’d be likely to use it to vote.
Among those who didn’t vote in the last election, the survey found 55 per cent said they’d be likely to use the Internet to vote if the service was available.
Sixty-four per cent of non-voting young people and 41 per cent of non-voting aboriginal electors – two of the groups with the lowest voter turnout – said the same.
The report suggests electronic voting may also benefit Canadian Forces members and other Canadians living temporarily outside the country. If they want to vote, their only option at the moment is to obtain a special mail-in ballot.
However, the report says many out-of-country voters have missed the deadline because of the relatively complicated special ballot procedure, combined with the short election time frame and limitations of the postal service.
Last October, 3,675 special ballots were received two weeks after election day, too late to be counted.
“This is an area where we believe electors would benefit from online services.”
While voters seem to like the idea, candidates are not quite so keen.
A survey of candidates in the last election found 75 per cent believe voters should be able to register online. But when it comes to actually casting ballots via the Internet, 48 per cent of candidates were opposed and 46 per cent were in favour.
“The survey indicates that most Canadians are interested in online registration and voting,” the report concludes.
“In view of the number of Canadians who are interested in accessing electoral services online, our efforts to put e-registration in place and to test e-voting are well aligned to their needs.”